AN underground fire beneath a dry lake bed in the Australian Outback has been burning on and off for months and has firefighters stumped.
Drivers have reported seeing smoke along the bed of Lake Woytchugga, near Wilcannia in far-western NSW, and firefighters, who put the fire out on an almost-weekly basis, are fed up with the eternal flame.
"We thought we had it out about a month ago and just in the last couple of days, with some wind, it's popped back up," incident controller Chris Favelle said.
Mr Favelle says he suspects organic material is fuelling the fire.
"There's a little bit of water way out in the middle, but it's basically dry, and along the edge, which would have once been the shore 1000 years ago, there's a build-up of organic matter, like sticks and leaves, a bit like peat."
The peat-like matter can burn for a long time, but what's baffling the Rural Fire Service is the way the fire dodges all attempts at snuffing it out.
"They get called once a day to put this fire out and they get there and there's nothing," Mr Favelle said.
"We've tried all sorts of things. We've tried flooding the area, we've tried digging it up, we've tried putting trenches around it, all to no avail. It keeps sneaking around our attempts to stop it."
He said there is no threat to the community from the fire, which is in a bare area.
Firefighters estimate it might cover a hectare underground, but say they have no real way of knowing the exact size of the fire.